This week, Vermont became the 26th state in the USA to outlaw texting while driving.
All of these laws are based on a simple premise: texting dramatically reduces drivers’ reaction time. Texting redirects our eyes and our attention. If only for a moment, it distracts us from the present reality of the road in front of us and transports us elsewhere. Obviously, this can be dangerous when driving.
But what about the rest of life? If texting removes us from the present reality of driving, doesn’t it have the potential to remove us from the present reality of any of life’s moments? Life is to be lived in the present with our heads up soaking in as much as we can… not with our head down transported away from our current situation. To that end, consider the positive impact on your life of texting less and living more in the present.
Give yourself permission to keep text messages from stealing your life:
- Give yourself permission to… not carry your cell phone at all times. Just put it away – out of earshot. There are moments in life that are far too important to be distracted from them by a text message. For example, I rarely carry my cell phone around the house when my kids are home. My responsibility to give them my undivided attention is more important to me than ANY incoming phone call or text message.
- Give yourself permission to… not answer every text message the moment you receive it. You don’t answer every incoming email the moment you receive it. You don’t answer every phone call the moment you receive it (especially when engaged in an activity of higher priority). In the same way, you don’t need to answer every text message the moment you receive it. There are very few people in your life who should have unrestricted access to your attention. And most of the people texting you, aren’t them.
- Give yourself permission to… never answer a text in the middle of a conversation with another person. At that point, it’s not just distracting you from the relationship right in front of you – it’s sacrificing any trust and goodwill that you have tried to build with the other person. Your actions have indicated how much you value that relationship to a far greater extent than any words that come out of your mouth.
- Give yourself permission to… not believe the myth of multi-tasking. I don’t believe the myth. You may be an exception… but I would point to distracted driving laws as proof for my side of the argument. Single tasking has been proven to be more efficient. “But I’m good at mutli-tasking” is just an excuse that people use so that they can text any time they want. Don’t believe the hype. Instead, keep your mind focused on the life right in front of you.
- Give yourself permission to… return their text message with a phone call. Texting can be very efficient. It can eliminate small talk, waiting for the person to answer, or going to a computer to send an email. But once a text conversation reaches more than 3 texts back-and-forth, it is has lost all efficiency. It could have been handled easier with a simple phone call. My general rule of thumb is if I receive a text that requires a longer response than one text message, I dial the number and handle it the old-fashioned way.
- Give yourself permission to… conduct important conversations over the phone or in person. The medium is the message. Conversations based on relationships, important business, or bad news come across as flippant when conducted via text. They should always be handled over the phone or better yet, in person.
Just to be clear, I’m not against texting. It can be very efficient and helpful. But just like everything else, left unchecked, it has the potential to steal your life right out of the palm of your hand. And I am definitely against that.
Thank you so much for this piece; I love it! I’ve never been much of a texter but only started doing it in the past few years to share info about activities at my place of worship with members (our place of worship has been closed since March though so all our activities are through Zoom). I also would try to keep in touch with the members by sending texts everyday. I’m not saying I hate texting; I still text to send flyers about worship activities on Zoom and coordinate meeting times with fellow faith leaders. It’s just that the strain all that texting for four years put on my fingers is catching up to me now so I’m back to doing more phone calls than texts (or even just putting my phone down entirely and reading a book haha). I feel rude sometimes for not answering someone’s text right away (and would answer if it was a serious emergency), but I know most people in the past wouldn’t answer my texts because they were busy and I learned overtime to respect that. I’m a people-pleaser by nature and felt I was being a bad person by not answering someone right away, so I always answered texts right away even when it took time away from my own schedule.
Since I was so used to texting, I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t text me right away and got anxious about it. I always assumed that people of my generation preferred texting as the main mode of communication, but turns out I know so many other millennials who don’t like texting all the time. After I’ve started calling more and texting less, I feel a lot calmer and less overwhelmed by a lot of text messages and I feel like I’m not overwhelming people as much with texts. I also have started empathizing with people who don’t text all the time because I’m busy like them and have started to feel better about setting my own boundaries for communication. I’m still working on it but it’s a start. I feel like myself again, the old me who didn’t text all the time (I didn’t get a cell phone until I was 16; it was a flip phone. Most of my peers had them before I did. Even when I got a phone it took me some time to get used to the buttons.)
Excellent points made. I’ve never gotten into text messaging, and maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t see how efficient a text message could be when compared to a phone call.
I send and receive between 20 to 40 messages a day. Mostly from my wife. When we are both at work neither of us can usually talk on the phone so we use it “talk” through out the day. Mostly just little ideas that we have, or thoughts about things that might be going on in our lives. It’s an easy way to share with each other things that we would probably just forget if we wait until later. However, I refuse to text while with friends or family.
Michael Michalowski says
I think that’s different. What you and your wife are doing is sharing thoughts, ideas and things which enrich both of your lifes. Your description sounds warm, loving and inspiring (the ideas). I would not want to miss something like that, if it means not sharing these things at all.
I bet you do your work even better because of those small but positive messages. It all really just depends on your perspective and intent.